Well-known Puget Sound orca 'Ruffles' is missing

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 6:49 PM

EVERETT, Wash. -- The most prominent member of the second largest pod of southern resident orcas is missing.

Members of J Pod were seen hunting in the waters off Everett Monday. The last census puts J Pod's population at 27 but J-1, also known as "Ruffles," is missing.

"The last time we have good evidence he was around was November 21 off Victoria," said Ken Balcomb, Senior Scientist with the Center For Whale Research on San Juan Island. "We're very concerned he hasn't been seen or photographed since then."

He was nicknamed Ruffles for his wavy six-foot tall dorsal fin that is shaped like a potato chip. He is the oldest and most photographed of all the endangered southern residents.

At 60-years-old, he is known to have fathered orcas in all three pods, J, K, and L. Whale tour boat operators and scientists can instantly identify him and he has become a favorite of whale watchers.

Balcomb said he is not ready to declare Ruffles dead at this point, but he is worried a legendary figure in the whale world may be gone.

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